John Bills, the insider convicted in one of the most brazen City Hall corruption cases in Chicago’s storied history of graft, was sentenced to 10 years in prison Monday by a federal judge who decried the damage done to public faith in government, reports the city’s Tribune. Bills’ voice broke with emotion as he acknowledged “ethical and moral” mistakes, but he denied masterminding the massive bribery scheme in exchange for growing the city’s controversial network of red light cameras into the largest in the nation. The 10-year prison term marked one of the stiffest ever handed down in Chicago’s federal court to a non-elected public official for corruption.
As part of the patronage army of House Speaker Michael Madigan, Bills rode his political connections to rise from street lamp maintenance man to the No. 2 post in the Transportation Department in 32 years with the city. In January, a federal jury convicted him on all 20 counts, including bribery, conspiracy, extortion and fraud, for steering tens of millions of dollars in red light camera contracts to an Arizona company, Redflex Traffic Systems Inc. The charges stemmed from a four-year Chicago Tribune investigation that exposed the scheme, as well as the mismanagement, failed oversight and dubious safety record of the $600 million red light camera program.